The Cell C Community Cup will break new ground at the end of the 2014 season with a series of Rugby World Cup-style regional qualifying matches set to decide which five clubs will join the best non-university teams from each province in next year's tournament.
SARU’s General Council is set to approve a decision that the current 'wild card' format – which sees five teams invited to join the best 'open' clubs from the 14 provinces plus Limpopo – be replaced by post-season qualifiers to be played across four regions.
One club from each region (South West, South East, Central & North) will qualify directly for the 2015 Cell C Community Cup, while a repechage round involving the runners-up in each region will decide the 20th and final team.
“The wild card format was devised with the best of intentions but it didn't quite work out as we had hoped,” said SARU CEO Jurie Roux, who made the announcement at a Cell C Community Cup media day with broadcaster SuperSport at the Springbok Experience museum in Cape Town on Tuesday.
“We listened to the feedback and believe we've come up with a solution which puts the destiny of each club firmly in their own hands.
“The qualifiers format will reward the best clubs but they can also provide an opportunity for more teams to play in the tournament. There are ambitious clubs in places like Namaqualand, the Eastern Free State, North West and Limpopo who have the potential ability to play in the Cell C Community Cup but who cannot compete in their provinces' premier leagues simply because of their geographical location. Qualifiers can help us build pathways between these clubs and give them a chance to dream.”
The announcement follows on the news that live Community Cup rugby will be broadcast on a Thursday night for the first time when East Rand arch-rivals G5 Metals Brakpan and Kaufela Boksburg clash under lights on 20 March at Bosman Stadium in Brakpan (kick-off 18h00, SS1 & HD).
Next week's opening match, between defending champions Gap Management Despatch and their Eastern Province rivals Spring Rose from the WJ de Wet Stadium in Despatch, will also be broadcast live (kick-off 14h30). All 12 matches from the Easter Championship play-offs, from 17-21 April, will also be on SuperSport, while a second six-part season of the popular Cell C Community Cup television magazine show, “Working-Class Heroes”, will be start on Thursday 13 March at 19h00 (SS1/HD).
”The Cell C Community Cup has been around for barely a year but already its impact is being felt around South Africa and that can only be good for the revival of club rugby," said Cell C's Executive Head: Marketing, Dr Doug Mattheus. “Clubs around the country, whether they're in the big cities or in the small towns, now have something to play for and we at Cell C are very proud to be associated with a tournament that has, in a very short space of time, managed to reach deep into the heart of our rugby communities and get them excited.”
The Cell C Community Cup 2014 first-round fixtures (full fixtures on www.sarugby.co.za):
Round 1 – Saturday 8 March:
Match 1 (Pool A) – GAP Management Despatch vs Spring Rose (WJ de Wet Stadium, Despatch, 14h30 – TV)
Match 2 (Pool A) – Mossel Bay Barbarians vs Bridgton (D'Almeida Stadium, Mossel Bay, 16h00)
Match 3 (Pool B) – Roodepoort v Bloemfontein Crusaders (Rand Leases Sports Ground, Roodepoort, 16h00) )
Match 4 (Pool B) – Jonsson College Rovers vs E-Car Welkom (KP3, Kings Park, Durban, 13h00)
Match 5 (Pool C) – BB Truck Noordelikes vs Kaufela Boksburg (Noordelikes Rugby Club, Polokwane, 16h30) )
Match 6 (Pool C) – Roses United vs G5 Metals Brakpan (Pelican Park, Wellington, 16h00)
Match 7 (Pool D) – Shumba Ferros vs Wesbank (Puma Stadium, Emalahleni/Witbank, 15h30)
Match 8 (Pool D) – Rustenburg Impala vs Sishen (Rustenburg Impala Rugby Club, Rustenburg, 16h00)
Byes: Kempston Old Selbornians, Eagle Towing Rovers, Centurion, Hamilton.